Defending champion Novak Djokovic moved into an eighth final at the Paris Masters on Saturday night following a 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 defeat of fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The 35-year-old Serb, who is seeking a record-extending seventh title at the tournament, concluded affairs on centre court at the Accor Arena in Bercy after two hours and 19 minutes and will take on Holger Rune in Sunday’s final
The 19-year-old Dane took out the eighth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 6-2 to reach his first final at one of the circuit’s nine Masters 1000 events – the most prized tournaments after the four Grand Slam competitions in Melbourne, Paris, London and New New York.
Rune lost to Auger-Aliassime last Sunday in the final at the Swiss Indoors in Basel.
Before the clash in Paris, Rune said the defeat had shown him what he needed to do for the semi-final.
“I was trying to make more returns,” he added after the 89-minute win.
“I hit the ball really cleanly today, so that was a key because I could place the ball well, put him under pressure and take time away from him.
“My mindset was good in that I was willing to do it all the time no matter how the score went or what happened.
“I was just super focused playing on the game plan from the start to the end, and that’s what I did.”
Djokovic has won a record 38 Masters titles in his storied career. And he appeared to be cruising to another final at the outset of his semi-final against Tsitsipas.
From 2-2 in the opening set, he won five consecutive games to claim the first set in 35 minutes and take an early lead in the second.
But he lost his service to give Tsitsipas a 3-2 lead. And the 24-year-old Greek broke again to seize the second set 6-3 and furnish the packed centre court with the prospect of a grandstand finale after 75 minutes.
The adversaries did not disappoint.
In an enthralling third game, Tsitsipas saved two break points to move 2-1 ahead. And it was nervy level pegging until the business end of the match produced the pyrotechnics.
At 4-4, Djokovic carved open two break points. Tsitsipas saved the second following a 20-shot exchange.
And he moved to game point with a deft drop shot that even Djokovic applauded.
Djokovic brought it back to 5-5 without dropping a point on his serve.
And following an equally assured service game from Tsitsipas, Djokovic was asked to stay in the match for a second time.
He responded to the challenge – again without losing a point – to usher in the tiebreak after two hours and nine minutes.
After a slick forehand winner to go 4-3 up and with two serves to follow, Tsitsipas stared at victory but imploded.
He lost both of his service points to allow Djokovic a 5-4 lead and fluffed a volley that could have brought him back to 5-5.
Reprieved, Djokovic killed off the contest.
“It could have gone either way right up to the very last shot,” Djokovic conceded in his on-court interview.
He will start as favourite against Rune who he beat in their only encounter at the first round at the US Open in 2021.
Since then, Rune has shot up the rankings into the top 20.
Success over the former world number one on a court Djokovic likens to home would be a huge statement of intent from a player nakedly ambitious to top the senior rankings after dominating the junior circuit.
“You’re always a bit more nervous when it’s final because it’s so close to winning the tournament,” said Rune.
“If you just see it as another match … but that’s easier to say than to do. But it’s how you should do it.
“It’s going to be super tough. But the final is just really about playing my game because that’s what can get me the closest to the win.”
Source: Modern Ghana